Will you have an answer for what you have done with your life or will you make excuses?

Last week, I wrote about one of my experiences from my high school football days.  I have to admit, though, that our team was a mixed bag when it came to success.  In my junior year of high school, our team record was 0 and 22.  Yes, we lost 22 straight games.

When actually did win a game, it was a great celebration.  But that is another story.

My senior year, we actually had a pretty good record of 6 and 4.  A lot of that success was due to our new coach.  Some of Coach Hogan’s success was due to that fact that he had a knack for “trick plays.”  We didn’t run them often—only when we really needed a boost—but when we ran them, they always worked.  Always.  Almost.

One of those plays was “Take it to Loper.”  It was a kick-off return play that featured our best running back Craig Loper.  We would save that play for when the other team had scored a touchdown.  You see, there is nothing better to take the wind out of the other team after they have scored than to run back the ensuing kick for a touchdown.

“Take it to Loper” always worked.  Always.

The way the play was designed, we would line up in regular kick receiving formation.  Loper was not set up to be the return man, though.  Rather, he was a ways up the field on the right hand side.  Endgate Hawk (yes, that is what he was called) was our back man who would actually receive the ball.

After Endgate caught the ball, he would begin running to his right.  Craig Loper would just stand there where he was and wait for Endgate to take the ball to him.  Hence, “Take it to Loper.”

While all that was happening on the right side of the field, our best blockers would set up a wall along the left sideline.  The play was actually a type of reverse.  When Loper got the ball, he would begin running the other way, to his left, and quickly get “behind the wall” of blockers on the left side of the field.  Craig was fast, and the blockers were good.

The other team was always caught off guard, and the result would be a touchdown for us.  Like I said, it always worked.

In one game late in the season, the other team had just scored a touchdown and a two point conversion to put us behind by two points.  However, Craig Loper had been hurt earlier in the game.  He just could not run his kick-off return play.

Craig’s backup was a fellow named David.  He had practiced the return play, but had never run it in a game.  Now, however, was his chance.  The coach called him over into a sideline huddle and gave us all a pep talk.  He emphasized how confident we were in the design of the return play and how capable David was to run it.  It would be “Take it to David” this time.

So, we lined up, and the ball was kicked.  Endgate caught the ball and ran it over to David.  The blockers set up a perfect wall down the sideline.  David took the ball, began running to his left, got behind the wall, and was off to the goal line. 

Everyone executed the play perfectly—Endgate, the blockers, David—everyone.   David had cleared all of the defenders and was flying down the sideline.  He was going to score!

Then, all of a sudden, along about the five yard line, David fell down and fumbled the ball.  A member of the other team recovered the fumble, and our opponents ran out the clock.  We lost the game by two points, one of our four losses.

After the play, David got up and came trotting back to the sideline.  Coach incredulously asked him, “David, what happened?”

I will never forget David answered in a high, squeaky voice, “I think I fainted, Coach!”

Excuses.  We all make them, don’t we?  But they never really help.  The outcome is always the same, excuses or not.

One day, each of us will stand before God, and we will be asked, “What have you done with your life?”  What will you say?  Will you have an answer.  Or … will you just make an excuse?

 (The Rev. Al Henager is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Heber Springs, Arkansas.  He can be contacted at alhenager@gmail.com.)